Jinya Ramen Bar on Robson celebrates its 1 year anniversary with a gift to themselves, and their customers by proxy, the first Suntory Toki Highball Machine in Canada! What in the world is a highball machine? You can think of it as Japanese whisky cocktails on tap. While we were at the birthday bash, we also got a peek at their appetizer menu.
Dropping in around the time of their 3 to 5 pm happy hour of $5 Sapporos, $4 craft beer and now the $5 Suntory Toki highball, the place was already humming. By the time we left around 7:00 pm the wait was already around 20 minutes for a seat. As expected from one of the most popular ramen joints in town.
I would liken the Suntory Toki highball to the gin and tonic version of whisky. Bubbly and light kind of a cool breeze freshness; while still having a bit of that warmth of a whisky that lingers inside even after you’ve taken a sip. The soda that is mixed with it is said to be extra carbonated so that it breaks up the fragrance of the drink better.
When you think of Japanese whisky you might think of Suntory’s Yamazaki single malt or Hibiki, a blended whisky, the latter of which I often seen behind the bars in Vancouver; and Lost in Translation. Toki is the newest edition to the line and crafted with the intention of being mixed. We were luckily seated next to some very experienced bartenders at the event and got to hear their insights. From an industry perspective, Suntory Toki is very acceptable price wise. Perhaps this factor combined with the rising popularity of Japanese whisky, we could see more Japanese whisky cocktails at our favourite lounges.
With the drinks, we were served a selection of small bites. Jinya’s appetizers are interesting as they have a bunch of options that aren’t typical izakaya options but still have a distinctly Japanese flair.
Soft shell crab bun
The most curious of the bunch is the soft shell crab bun. It’s a whole soft shell crab deep fried and dressed in a sweet and sour sauce. To round off the crunch, avocado, baby leaf spinach and spicy mayonnaise give it even more dimension. All in a steam bun wrapper.
Crispy chick peas
The crispy chick peas are fried and tossed in spicy curry salt. Extremely light and not at all greasy.
Brussel sprout tempura
Their brussel sprout tempura, similar to the chick peas, is not at all greasy but still comes with the satisfying crunch. Made with white truffle oil, and cut into small pieces to be covered in flavour and tempura batter. This is not a humble brussel sprout but a glamorous barely-vegetable.
Salmon Poké Tacos
Their salmon poke tacos use a fried gyoza wrapper as the shell. A nice way to round out the meal if you are craving something like sashimi.
Creamy Vegan Ramen
When the happy hour event ended, we got in line to be seated again. It’s hard to come to Jinya and leave without having ramen. As their restaurant signage says “no ramen no life”. This time around we opted for the creamy vegan with a side of Takoyaki.
I was pleasantly surprised to find Jinya’s takoyaki is served on a bed of eggy tartar sauce. Usually a do-no-wrong kind of snack almost no matter where you order it, it’s rare to see something new done with it. Traditionally a street food, takoyaki is a piece of octopus wrapped in a hot ball of batter and brushed with a sweet and salty sauce.
541 Robson Street, Vancouver